Paying Homage to Collard Greens

October 16, 2007

As much as I’ve written and talked about my beloved kales, I recently realized how much I’ve slighted the equally delicious and possibly even more talented collard greens.

Maybe collards can’t deliver the same pizzazz as those beautiful kales, but they are by no means a homely or undeserving plant. They also deserve more respect in the garden just because they are so nutritious and healthful. Collards are considered to be nutrient dense, which means that you’ll be rewarded with a big nutritional bang when consuming this tasty vegetable.

A Peek at Collard’s Out-Growing Personality

Collards are not only big in their nutritional profiles; they also provide a powerful presence out in the vegetable garden. Collards are like an extroverted form of cabbage that grows outward instead of holding itself in. Unlike its more reserved relative, collards won’t hesitate to open up and put on a proud display in the garden.

In my eyes the kales still have them beat for beauty, but collard greens are striking and attractive in their own right. It’s a combination of the color, leaf form, and texture that can make you stop and take note of this otherwise rather ordinary and common leafy green vegetable.

Flexing Some Green Muscle in the Garden

Before I cause offense by calling them ordinary, let me point out the spectacular sizes that collard plants can attain. If ever there was a leafy green vegetable accused of using steroids this would be the one. A single plant can grow over four feet in height and spread five feet in width all without the use of stakes or additional support to prop them up.

An individual collard leaf can easily grow to occupy over a square foot in area. But one secret for the backyard gardener is that you might be better off to not let them grow that large before harvesting for kitchen use. The smaller sized leaves are tenderer, just as tasty, and will cook up in a few brief minutes, or can even be enjoyed raw in salads.

Natural Seasoning for Tasty Leafy Greens

Another tip for the home gardener growing collards is take advantage of the flavor enhancement provided by cold weather. The quality and flavor of collard greens will be improved and sweetened as the plants are exposed to a few touches of fall frost.

To harvest collard plants I usually pick a few of the outer leaves from each plant and allow the center to continue growing and producing leaves for future harvesting. Like kale, collards easily survive the cold winters here in Pennsylvania and will rebound to yield additional leaves and edible seed stalks the following spring.

Collard Green Variety and Diversity

Popular collard varieties include Vates, Georgia, Champion, and Morris Heading. I haven’t noticed much difference in any of these varieties and each will provide you with a similar crop.

If you’re interested in a different or more ornamental strain of collards try to locate seed of either the Variegated or Green Glaze collard varieties. The Variegated collards produce unique leaves that take on a cream, white, pink, or tinge of red variegation as the temperatures become cooler. Green Glaze collards produce smooth, glossy leaves that are shiny and noticeably different from the other collard varieties.

Collards are very easy to grow and can be set out as transplants in the spring or direct seeded into the garden during the summer months. They are sometimes targeted by the cabbage moths and worms but seem to be more resistant to these pests than cabbage and kale.

So if you’ve been snoozing on this nutrient-rich leafy green vegetable; it’s time to consider planting some collards in your next garden!

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  • Great site – & interesting post. We will have to try collared greens!

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  • lafaye butler

    Please help me find a collard tree plant.
    Thank U

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Lafaye, I remember seeing a plant called “tree collards” listed in a seed catalog years ago but I don’t recall which catalog and I haven’t seen it advertised anywhere in recent years. There is a “walking stick cabbage” that is offered by a number of seed sources but I don’t think that it is the same plant as the tree collard.

  • Hi Kenny,

    Great post, I don’t personally grow collard greens. Maybe these are a vegetable that I will try growing next year.


  • Mary Saunders

    Another reason to grow collards are their flowers. They are purely sweet, absolutely delicious, and they would be decorative with a tapenade or other dark background. The plants which have been plucked of their lower leaves look like palm trees in the cold.

    Cabbages plucked of all their leaves will re-grow sweet little heads if you bury the cores far enough that most critters leave them alone. I have a container by the dryer vent where I put in cut-off onion roots as well.

    I have had success eating all the celery and regrowing new celery from roots. It set flowers that went to seed. I am hoping to get baby celeries in the spring.

    Collard greens are just delicious cooked with olive oil, onion, and mustard. I add a bit of balsamic vinegar after cooking as well. Many people also use hot sauce. Yum.

    Mary Saunders

  • I’ve just discovered your website kenny and I really like it so i’ll be adding you to my blog roll of green fingers.

    I grow edibles in France and I would like to know what a collard is. I love leafy brassicas but i am not sure what a collard is, I’m guessing that’s an American name do you know the latin plant name?

  • Mary Saunders

    Wikipedia has a great listing on collards.

  • Jon Collard

    I love this vegetable just for the name!

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  • harriet hodges

    Where does one buy Green Glaze collard seeds? Seeds of Change has just informed me they no longer carry them.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Harriet, you can try Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for the Green Glaze collard seeds.

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  • Are young green seeds (pods) of collard’s edible?


  • Mary Saunders

    I have eaten the flowers and seeds of many of the brassicas. Mustards are made with some brassica seeds. Some people are allergic to mustard, so if you are allergic, you might not want to try. I find the flowers delicious, but again, some are allergic.

  • I’m a North Carolinian who lives in France. I grow collards in my garden here from seeds I bring back from N.C. when I visit there. The collards are different but very good — our climate is very different. I also grow mustard greens.

  • Ole

    You can order tree collards from bountiful gardens. They ship cuttings in sets of three. $15 for the set of three. Good luck.

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